The Paradoxical Commandments
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
So it goes.
I woke up at the usual 5 A.M, contemplating yesterday’s events, and dressed myself in silence, that dream-like daze where everything feels unreal. Rereading those conversations, while sitting on my bed, felt emotionally draining to the point where I wanted to sink my heavy head back into my memory-foam pillow: that very pillow that betrayed me two days prior when I was supposed to meet you at 9 P.M. I had never felt like this before, and my chest felt uneasy. At first, I thought it may have been some indigestion. And so, I sipped water slowly.
Dragging myself off the bed, I reminded myself that it was time to leave for physical training: today was the Army Physical Fitness Test. The motor neurons in my brain must have been misfiring, because I had to consciously tell myself to move my legs off the bed. To sit up, to stand up, and to move towards the living room where my roommates were waiting. Every muscle and sinew needed the reminder that I had to move on. My roommates probably knew, but guys don’t talk about these things.
I took the fitness test, an empty void in my heart. I did the pushups. And then the situps. And then the mostly mindless run, until you crossed my mind at the beginning of every lap, when I decided to run harder because maybe I could run away. My fitness score came out much higher than I expected.
We didn’t last long, so why should it matter? The mindless, repetitive questions never left my head. Since it never developed into anything serious, I shouldn’t have cared so much. But I did. And I stared at those conversations, toiling over each message and its read receipts, trying to decipher where I could’ve said something different. Despite my English major, I fumbled with words around you.
I used to find the notion of romantic love ridiculous, and scoffed at couples that publicly held hands. My friends know me well, and they have their jokes that Kam Singh can never commit to one girl. Some of my friends, of the lesser understanding variety, will still laugh at how fast and hard I fell, as if I was a child tripping over his tangled shoelaces. I felt foolish for these emotions, embarrassed of this newfound possession. For the first time, I found myself slipping into the emotional abyss.
I could still remember the “KALE” shirt you wore 4 days prior. I had previously thought that my good memory was a blessing, but it hideously transformed into a curse where the images of you felt scorched on. An image sewn on. The words you used felt like daggers. Scars, where a wound would reopen and then refuse to heal, only seeming to deepen. Such a foolish thing, to fall for someone who you only knew for a fraction of your life. You, however, assumed the worst of me. But I proceeded to my classes, and threw myself into my work. I shifted mechanically, from one task to another, keeping the thought of you at bay. Never letting the image land on shore. Happiness, however, felt elusive, escaping through my hands like grains of sand.
So it goes.
So it goes.
A week after February 15th, I went to help my mother with some things around the house. Mothers are always a coin toss: sometimes you land on the good side, and sometimes you land on the bad.
My mother immediately noticed that something seemed wrong when I walked through the door. She sat me down, and made some Indian Masala chai. She listened to my retelling of events, as I offered my perspective as well as what her’s may have been. Her eyes focused on me, her gaze meeting mine, my mother offered her counsel.
My life’s greatest fortune has been my upbringing in a household where honesty was regarded as the focal religion. So I appreciated my mother’s brutal honesty when she told me what I did wrong and how to correct myself. “You can’t change her, but you can always make yourself better. Learn, and move on. If your actions were sincere, never regret them.”
Over the next few weeks, I chased my passions relentlessly. I visited Barcelona and traversed the entire city on foot. I helped cook paella, spoke Spanish with the Spaniards, lost myself in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, and rescued my old dog that I had once re-homed. Situations greeted me with awkwardness in the beginning and gratitude towards the end. And I learned my invaluable love of people, experiencing their unique cultures and hearing their fascinating stories, challenged me with new perspectives.
My mother, and the past few weeks since February 15th, have taught me that life will always be a series of overlapping perspectives. Some people will undoubtedly adore you, and some will find fault in your simplest actions. We learn this lesson numerous times, but seem to lose sight of it when most important. Our visions become jaded, focused solely on our own struggles that we’re unable to look through the eyes of others. But inner happiness relies on your truthful perspective of yourself.
I wish you nothing but the best.
So it goes.